ARLINGTON, Va. — The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is giving pharmacies more flexibility to extend their reward and loyalty programs to beneficiaries in government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.
NACDS said Wednesday that the final rule, issued by the HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and going into effect on Jan. 6, includes several of the association’s suggestions. NACDS noted that it had submitted formal comments to the OIG during the rule’s development to express strong support for it in concept and convey revisions needed for the rule’s feasibility.
“NACDS advocated for this rule and worked constructively to help enhance it because it will allow government program beneficiaries to enjoy access to programs voluntarily implemented by pharmacies, which reduce health care costs, improve quality and promote patient health,” NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson said in a statement. “This is a very positive step forward for pharmacy patient care, and a further recognition by a government agency of the tremendous value of pharmacies as the face of neighborhood healthc are and of the expanded innovative programs that pharmacies provide.”
Although retail pharmacy customer rewards programs have been popular and brought benefits to many patients for years, federal laws have blocked participation by government-program beneficiaries, NACDS noted.
Programs vary in their designs but often include cost savings or other rewards for filling prescriptions or engaging in other health-related activities, such as health screenings, medication adherence programs or healthy lifestyle behaviors, among others.
“Pharmacy programs affected by the proposed rule reduce health care costs, both for individual patients and for the health care system as a whole. At the same time, these pharmacy programs promote access to prescribed medications that are essential to maintaining patient health and wellness,” NACDS stated in its comments submitted during the regulatory process.
NACDS pointed out that nongovernment payers and patients have found rewards/loyalty programs to be effective, without contributing to overutilization of care.
“Failure to take medications as prescribed leads to major health care complications for patients and $290 billion in increased health care costs as a result of preventable physician visits and hospitalizations,” the association said in its remarks. “Incentives to participate in medication adherence and other beneficial pharmacy programs have a demonstrated track record of increasing patient health while simultaneously decreasing overall health care costs.”